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Penn State Football Catches Penalty Bug Against Illinois

James Franklin enjoys keeping track of the little battles that go on during the game. Franklin tracks and reports to the media the results of the turnover battle, the explosive play battle, the third down battle, the sack battle, and the penalty battle after every game. During last week’s dominant victory over Delaware, Penn State won everything but the penalty battle.

Penn State was called for seven penalties for 55 yards a week ago, an unusually large number for Franklin’s squad that was called for one penalty during the season opener against West Virginia.

“The one thing is the penalties,” Franklin said after the Delaware game. “We’ve been pretty disciplined with that. I wasn’t happy with that today.”

If Franklin was unhappy last week, he was extremely unhappy Saturday. During the road victory over Illinois, the Nittany Lions were called for nine penalties, one with an offsetting foul and another that was declined by Illinois, marking seven accepted penalties. However, the Nittany Lions’ seven accepted penalties equaled 70 penalty yards. A personal foul, an unsportsmanlike conduct, and a pass interference call accounted for 45 of the 70 yards alone.

“The penalty battle, we did not win,” Franklin said after the Illinois game. “We’ll have to look at that closely.”

The first big penalty came on an unsportsmanlike conduct call against Dvon Ellies after the play had finished. The penalty took Illinois from its own 23-yard line to its own 38-yard line. After the penalty, Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer completed a short pass before Dom DeLuca forced a fumble on the very next play, making the flag relatively inconsequential.

The other post-play penalty came in the middle of the second quarter, when KeAndre Lambert-Smith was called for a personal foul on a play that would’ve set up a 3rd-and-2 at the Illinois 20-yard line. Instead, Penn State faced a 3rd-and-17 that they failed to convert. Alex Felkins’ 52-yard field goal attempt was blocked on the very next play.

“Whenever you get penalties that are either pre-snap or post-snap, they’re discipline penalties,” Franklin said. “We’ve got to eliminate those.”

While pre- and post-snap penalties may be the most avoidable and irksome penalties, they might not be the most consequential.

Penn State was called for two false starts during the game, the first against Caedan Wallace on the drive that would eventually end with Felkins’ blocked field goal. The other false start was committed by center Hunter Nourzad. The Nourzad false start turned a 3rd-and-1 into a 3rd-and-6 that Penn State was not able to convert and had to punt the ball away.

Illinois was Penn State’s first Big Ten test of the season and its first road game of the season. Even though Illinois’ Memorial Stadium had fewer attendees than what was announced for Penn State’s Blue-White Game, a road crowd can take a toll on an offensive line.

The final offensive penalty of the contest came aginst the usually-disciplined Olu Fashanu. The future first-round pick was called for a hold that negated a six-yard run from running back Nick Singleton. The call made what would have been a short yardage third-down into a 2nd-and-20. Penn State wasn’t able to get a fresh set of downs and once again had to punt the ball away.

Defensively, Penn State had an additional two pass interference penalties called on them, neither of which swung momentum as much as the offensive penalties did.

Franklin often emphasizes the importance of getting better in some way each week. The areas Franklin wanted to improve on during the week between Delaware and Illinois were situational football and penalties. Based on the numbers, the penalties did not improve.

“We’ve been pretty good in that area,” Franklin said. “But obviously we’ve got to get those things cleaned up. So yeah, not good. I’m not happy.”

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About the Author

CJ Doebler

CJ is a sophomore double majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. He is from Northumberland, Pa, just east of State College. CJ is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan, but chooses to ignore the Pirates' existence. For the occasional random retweet and/or bad take, follow @CDoebler on Twitter. All complaints can be sent to [email protected].

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